220515scl ChildrensAuthors

Wickford business owner Vanessa Piche never meant to become a children’s author but her creative work drew praise from those around her, who encouraged her to give it a go. Now, she’s illustrating the fourth and fifth installments of her series ‘The Adventures of Dune and Nash.’

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

This quotation penned by Neil Gaiman (who was paraphrasing something once said by G.K. Chesterton) is the essence of children’s literature and its immense value.

The impact of a good story can last a lifetime — for reader and author alike. Five Rhode Island authors are leaving their mark on the world of children’s literature through their tales of bravery, adventure and compassion. Read about them below and discover how you and the children in your life can experience their stories.

Carissa Leveille Nylin

Carissa Leveille Nylin wears many hats. She is a wife, a homeschooling mother, a professional photographer, a business owner, a resin art maker, the keeper of her beloved old home (affectionately referred to as “the Money-Pit”) and a self-published children’s author.

According to Nylin, her book “A to Z for D-O-G” is a “bedtime book for tiny humans and the dogs (big and small) that love them so dearly.” Her book also “aims to help younger children practice their ABCs and rhythmic reading while following along on the exciting adventures of Pete the D-O-G.”

“A to Z for D-O-G” was originally inspired while on a hiking trip with her husband Matt and their beloved family dog, Pete. The book was later realized when the pause at the onset of the global pandemic occurred, and life stood still. After being consumed by photographing weddings for 10 years, Nylin finally had time to breathe and refocus her creative efforts. Not only did she pivot her photography business, but she also published her book in early 2021 after two years of hard work.

“Every writer finds inspirations and people that help them succeed along the way,” said Nylin. One such inspiration in her creative journey is her eight-year-old daughter Ella. “She helps me to dream big and keep working towards my goals,” said Nylin. Ella even assisted her mom in the design process of the book by drawing the ice-cream cone featured within.

Nylin is an avid believer in making time for your dreams no matter what. She said, “never stop trying. Even if all you can give is five minutes a day, your dreams are too important to walk away from. It will take an abundance of hard work, persistence and patience, but one day you will get there.” She continued, saying, “I always try to encourage the people I meet in this world to work on their big dreams too. We have so many resources we can share as a community, and while it will still take a whole lot of hard work and dedication, it’s always nice to have someone tell you that you should go chase down your dreams. I like to think it is the thing we can give to one another for free — the support of each other’s want-to’s.”

Nylin has used her book to give back to something close to her heart: $1 from each book sold, in addition to some more of the book proceeds, is donated back to a non-profit organization called Vintage Pet Rescue. This organization is a retirement home for senior dogs that provides comfort and care as they live out their golden years. To date, Nylin has donated $200 to their efforts and hopes to reach her next goal of $500 in donations.

“A To Z For D-O-G” is currently for sale at Rarities Books and Bindery in Wakefield, at ArtBox Studio in Burrillville and tinyhousecreativestudio.com.

Vanessa Piche

Vanessa Piche is an award-winning oil painter, the owner of a small shop/studio in downtown Wickford and an accidental children’s author.

While designing a children’s clothing line she had person after person tell her that her concept art would make for an amazing children’s book. Baffled, she finally gave in to the prodding of the universe and wrote the first two installments of “The Adventures of Dune and Nash” in about 20 minutes. She is currently illustrating the fourth and fifth installments of the series.

“The Adventures of Dune and Nash,” tells the adventurous stories of a dog and two kids who have big imaginations. Whether by the sea or deep in the mountains with Big Foot the characters always end their adventures with their favorite ice cream flavor.

Piche was an elementary school art teacher for seven years before moving to Rhode Island. Often at the end of a class, she would pull out a book to read to her students that connected in some way to what they were learning — little did she know that during this season of her life she was learning and preparing for her eventual dive into the world of children’s literature.

“Over the years, I got to see what books the kids loved...fun characters, a bit of a silly story, good laughs, ice cream and fun adventures. Kids love characters they can relate to and have a good laugh with — I really feel these types of books keep them engaged even if they aren’t big into reading. Make reading or listening to a book fun — if you do that you can hook a young mind to love books forever,” she said.

Though Piche is a self-published author, she hopes to one day work with a publisher to get all her new story ideas out to a broader audience. She also hopes to tour Rhode Island sharing her books at schools and libraries but has been delayed due to the upheaval of the last two years. She said, “I am patiently waiting for the right time so we can gather and not worry.”

Piche urges aspiring authors to “get started now! Don’t worry about all the fine details. There are so many platforms to get your book written, edited and published that it is easier than ever. If you don’t do it now, when will you?!” she said.

To purchase a copy of “The Adventures of Dune and Nash” visit Piche at her shop/studio in downtown Wickford or visit Rarities Books & Bindery at 396 Main St, Wakefield.

Margaret Hanley Rebello

Margaret Hanley Rebello’s journey to authorship has been one of a spiritual nature. Born through personal tragedy, the seasons of life and some defining moments of trajectory, “An Eagle Soars” tells the story of a child’s road to independence and a mother’s process of letting go. Rebello’s book is like a hug of reassurance for child and parent alike.

Rebello began her journey to writing when an upheaval in her career sent her to pursue a college degree. Despite having a husband and two young children at home, she took the change in stride and set out on a new path. To fulfill an English requirement, she took a children’s literature course for fun — she loved reading to her sons before bed, so why not? Well, it was in this class where she wrote and illustrated the first draft of what would, much later, become “An Eagle Soars.” Life went on and the manuscript — which earned her an A in the class — was put in a drawer, then in a box. It then awaited the day that it would reemerge and change her life.

Rebello lost her husband and their beloved family dog soon after she retired. These losses ushered in a time of terrible grief. An advertisement about becoming an author she happened upon in a waiting room magazine during that heartbreaking time somehow stayed tucked away in her mind, though. While out to dinner with her son Daniel one evening, she declared — after much encouragement from him to not stay trapped in grief — that she was going to publish a children’s book. She was as shocked as he was. Publishing a book had not even been on her radar until then.

After that initial shock, Rebello said, “Daniel, you know I am a person of my word. I will make it happen. I don’t even know what the next steps are, but I will publish a children’s book.” At her determination, he was on board and began helping her embark on the next chapter of her life.

Soon after, her sister introduced her to someone she knew who could help Rebello find her way. Denny Dillion, who had already gone through the process of writing and illustrating a book, was happy to help. A couple of weeks and some nerve-wracking meetings later, Dillion and illustrator Dana Vacca began working with Rebello to self-publish and make her book a reality.

“It was the absolute best decision I made to self-publish; I only had to answer to me. I had full control throughout the entire journey from the creation of the story through getting the book published,” said Rebello.

There was another moment of assurance in the process when Rebello discovered the details of her illustrator’s educational background. Rebello had considered contacting the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) to find a student illustrator before meeting Vacca, who ended up being the perfect fit. Rebello soon learned that Vacca was a RISD graduate, and everything felt divinely meant to be.

“Honestly, the entire process was a spiritual journey for me. So many gifted people crossed my path,” said Rebello. “It was the most rewarding experience of my life, other than being a mom! I felt an energy flowing in me that I couldn’t contain.”

Rebello decided to donate all the proceeds from selling her book to St. Jude Children’s Hospital to help the children who need it the most to soar.

She has plans for a future book when life allows, but for now, the legacy of “An Eagle Soars” is still finding a way to establish itself in Rebello’s life and the lives of those around her.

To others who are considering a future in the world of children’s literature, Rebello says, “it’s been written in your heart because it was written in the stars for you a long time ago. You have a message that is meant to be heard, and you too will make a difference in a child’s life, so believe in yourself and the path you are meant to follow. It is unfolding; it will happen.”

To purchase a copy of “An Eagle Soars,” visit Rarities Books & Bindery at 396 Main St, Wakefield.

Theresa Schimmel

Theresa Schimmel lives by her grandmother’s tried-and-true mantra, “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” This philosophy of hard work and dedication is one that she has undoubtedly applied to her efforts in the literary world and her community.

Of the five books she has self-published, four of them are for young audiences. Her first book, “Sunny,” is about a foster child and was written to help foster children understand their emotions as they deal with the loss they have experienced. The book is also a resource for foster parents, teachers and social workers.

Her second book is a flip-chapter book that is a two-in-one combo entitled “David’s War/David’s Peace.” In “David’s War” the main character, a young boy named David is lost in the forest and befriended by a rabbit and his family. He learns of an ongoing conflict between the rabbits and the woodchucks and helps devise a war plan. After the deadly consequences of the first approach, in “David’s Peace” the character uses conflict resolution strategies rather than violence to solve the problem. This book is designed to help children understand that conflicts can be resolved without violence, and it is often utilized in school districts as a resource in teaching children about conflict resolution.

Her third book, “The Circus Song” is a brightly illustrated children’s book with the words from an old circus song taught to Schimmel by her mother.

Her fourth children’s book is entitled “The Carousel Adventure.” It is a hard-cover fantasy chapter book based on the Watch Hill Carousel. The two children in the book are Schimmel’s grandchildren, Otto and Thora. The book takes readers on a magical adventure into the times and places illustrated on the different panels on the side of the carousel. Every chapter even has a non-fiction page at the end that explains the fascinating history of the carousel.

Schimmel has spent many years as an educator. This rich background has shown her the power of stories in the lives of her students. “Children can be transported into new places, identify with others, learn about their emotions and [the emotions of] others. Books are both entertaining and a valuable social-emotional and educational tool,” she said.

Each of Schimmel’s books is a tool for engaging the minds of her readers, and she has the joy of visiting other classrooms and sharing her stories with children and the adults in their lives.

With three more books in the works, Schimmel is not planning on stopping her writing journey any time soon. Her creative process begins with a central idea, which is usually triggered by an experience. Schimmel works on molding the aspects of her stories in her mind as she goes through her day and then fleshes them out through notes and character personality profiles. The stories she writes go through as many rounds of editing as it takes for them to shine in the way she imagined.

Schimmel is very active in her community and participates in organizations like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, The Peace Alliance, and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. She is also a member of the Association of Rhode Island Authors and a member of a smaller group of South County writers who offer support and mentorship to one another.

To aspiring children’s authors, Schimmel says, “If you have a story to tell and are passionate about writing, by all means, get your story in print — even if it’s only to share with your family and friends. Seek others’ advice. Read children’s books that appeal to you and solicit feedback from children.”

To purchase any of Schimmel’s books, visit tamstales.net.

Marcia Letourneau

Marcia Letourneau believes in writing about the things that bring you the most happiness. In her book “The Magic Rabbit of Green Hill,” readers are taken on a magical adventure alongside a little girl who meets a rabbit that can fly and takes her flying from Green Hill beach to Trustom Pond. This locally-inspired story shows readers that magic is found all around us.

Letourneau has always loved poetry. And when she became a mother, she found herself surrounded by little books filled with easy to repeat verses. Within her daughter’s collection of books, she found inspiration to create something in kind.

The words of Henry David Thoreau were also a great inspiration to her as he captured the places he loved most in his prose. As a naturalist and animal rights activist who regularly adventures on the paths at Trustom Pond with her daughter, Letourneau is captivated by the sights and life found in nature.

By choosing to become a self-published author, Letourneau was able to utilize her artistic abilities and have complete creative control over her story. This freedom was something crucially important to her as a creator.

Readers can rejoice because Letourneau is currently working on a sequel to her story called “The Magic Rabbit of Green Hill Returns.”

To those who are considering the path of becoming a children’s author, she says, “my advice for authors [who are] writing for children, [is to] observe what makes them happy! Showing my daughter the paths at Trustom Pond and the animals in and around it [is what] made the book meaningful to her.”

To purchase a copy of “The Magic Rabbit of Green Hill,” visit Rarities Books & Bindery at 396 Main St, Wakefield, amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.

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